Interview by Dayna Brownfield
Chelsea Konieczko calls herself a hyper local because she and her husband Kristopher actually bought the house they grew up in. For her, Columbus has everything they enjoy about a bigger city without the big crowds and traffic. And being only 10 minutes from the airport, they can always escape if a change of scenery is needed. But who needs a change of scenery when Vernacular, the store Konieczko and her husband own, offers some of the best styles and accents for shoppers?
How did you get started on your career path?
My degree is in Interior Design, so I began as a design assistant at a local furniture company. After that I switched focus and spent some time at the Abercrombie & Fitch Home Office creating AutoCAD floorplans for their family of brands. To really round things out, I then went to work at a healthcare architecture firm. That was a great lesson in “real world” timelines and procedures. In 2010, I left that position to start our store with my now husband and haven’t looked back since. It was Objects for the Home back then, but morphed into Vernacular in 2013.
What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
I think my husband and I are more loners than perhaps most entrepreneurs. We’re horrible networkers, so we really didn’t get too much advice. Our families have been our main guides along the way; be honest, stay true to ourselves and if something isn’t working, don’t hesitate to adjust.
What is your day-to-day like as co-founder at Vernacular?
Currently my main role in our business is buying, outreach, and anything to do with graphics and social media. I take care of all of our graphic design needs and run our social media outlets. There are only two other full-time people on our office team, so many, many other things fall onto my list any given day, but these are my core responsibilities. Also, my husband and I go on about six to seven buying trips per year to source both fashion and lifestyle goods, working one-on-one with our manufacturers. My day-to-day life is extremely varied. This morning, I was out of the office working with a new manufacturer we will be creating a custom line with. Tomorrow, I will likely be finalizing artwork for some of our in-store promotional materials. That lack of consistency can be difficult, but it’s certainly never boring.
What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
I usually wake up with things already on my mind, so getting out of bed most days is easy. Plus, three dogs help with that on the more difficult days. I’m a coffee lover, but gave up caffeine altogether a number of years ago. So you’ll always see a black decaf in my hand. As far as getting through the week, I try to set myself up for little accomplishments, so I feel a sense of victory along the way. When projects we’re working on are more long term, it’s hard to stay motivated. Knowing we have revised a problem area of our handbook or I’ve taken the time to delete old emails gives me a sense of triumph that fuels me through the rest of the week.
What are some of your work-life balance challenges & how do you address them?
Running this business 50/50 as a married couple is a conundrum in and of itself. It can be hard turning off work chat, but we do our best to just say “ok, let’s table this for now” when one of us needs to move on.
Where do you go to unwind from work?
Any garden or nursery, and oddly enough, mini-golf. Nothing says “I’m not an adult and I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to right now” like mini-golf.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
That if I wasn’t doing this, I would probably go to culinary school and become a private chef.
If you could have a superpower, which would you choose?
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
What are among the top places you’d recommend to someone who is visiting or new to Columbus?
Franklin Park Conservatory, but make sure you check out all of the outdoor areas.
What’s the most exciting thing about Columbus right now?
The diversity in all of our start-ups.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
The collaborative and supportive spirit of the business community seems to be stronger than ever. I am excited to see the “competitive” nature start to melt away.